In eight years Saline Area Schools students have served dozens of gallons of soup, made hundreds of cakes, created thousands of ceramic bowls and performed dozens of songs -- all to raise money to feed the hungry in Washtenaw County.
Thursday night, hundreds of families gathered at the eighth annual Empty Bowls benefit at Saline High School. Since its inception the event has raised about $35,000 for Food Gatherers of Washtenaw County, a nonprofit organization which works to alleviate hunger and its causes. The event is also a celebration of art. Art students from grade three to grade 12 created ceramic bowls for the event. More skilled artists created auction bowls that were sold in a silent auction. Culinary arts students made gallons of soup and about 40 cakes and served them to the public. Students in the fiddle program, jazz band and choir provided entertainment.
Laura Laatsch teaches art at Woodland Meadows Elementary School. She said her third graders gained valuable lessons in ceramic arts. But there was another important lesson.
“We learned about the Empty Bowls project, nationwide, and how artists try to help their community in different ways. So we, too, can use our creativity to help our community,” Laatsch said. “Students also learned there are families here in Washtenaw County who are less fortunate that not everyone has access to basic nutrition. So they’re taking their time and energy to make someone’s life better.”
It’s a concept that resonated with her students.
“They were very excited. They wanted to get to work and put their creativity to good use,” Laatsch said.
For the culinary arts students Empty Bowls was a major undertaking. They made five soups for the event - from chicken noodle to butternut squash. They baked 40 cakes. They baked several kind of breads in various styles.
Chef Sam Musto said it’s a valuable educational experience for his students.
“We have a bake shop here at the school and students get to practice their baking skills. In a week, our students are going to the regional competition and competing against other schools. In this event we’re certainly feeding a lot of people, so this is great practice,” Musto said.
Saline Area Schools Superintendent Scot Graden said the district is proud of the event and all the people who make it happen.
“It’s a great way for us to give back to the community,” Graden said. “I like the collaborative nature of the event. You have teachers and students in the culinary program, arts program and music programs all coming together for a great cause.”
Saline resident Betsy Dimaggio helped bring the Empty Bowls event to Saline and has volunteered ever since. She was happy to see so many people enjoying the event.
“It’s wonderful to see the way people support the event. I think people embrace the whole idea of being able to enjoy each other’s company and support a good cause at the same time,”